Tiger Roll set to return in spring as Eddie O'Leary dismisses retirement talk
Down, but not out. Tiger Roll's shot at racing immortality is still on the cards despite last Friday's flop at Cheltenham as connections continue to consider a crack at winning a third Grand National.
Gigginstown's straight-shooting racing manager Eddie O'Leary admitted Tiger Roll ran far worse than he had hoped when pulled up in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase but rubbished any talk of retirement on Monday.
O'Leary urged people not to jump to conclusions about the legendary ten-year-old until he returned later in the season, most likely in the Boyne Hurdle at Navan in mid-February.
O'Leary told the Racing Post: "He's a spring horse, it's as simple as that. Look through his whole career, that tells you everything you need to know.
"I'll admit he ran far worse than any of us thought he would on Friday. I hoped he would get around safely and finish the race with a smile on his face, but he didn't do that.
"Tiger Roll will be retired when Tiger Roll tells us he wants to retire. He wasn't standing still with his back to the ditch when he was let out into the field on Saturday morning, he was bucking and kicking and full of himself. He's still loving life. Once he starts telling us he's sick of it, that will be it."
"The horse deserves a chance to show us the spark is still there in the spring," O'Leary said.
"I think we owe him that. He will be back at Cheltenham in March for the Cross Country and will probably run in the Boyne Hurdle again before that. If he shows us the spark is still there in those two races, then I would imagine he will run in the Grand National. If he doesn't, he won't."
Tiger Roll's current form might be a concern, but O'Leary said there was an even bigger problem, one that could prevent him from trying to emulate Red Rum.
He explained: "His handicap mark is ludicrous. It's absolutely crazy. It needs to be readjusted and readjusted fast. When you have a rating of 171 you should have a Gold Cup horse. Why has Tiger Roll never run in a Gold Cup? Because he's not good enough.
"It's as simple as that. It's a crazy rating. There is no point in us abusing Tiger Roll in asking him to give lumps of weight to horses like Easysland. He doesn't deserve the rating he has and never did."
It was a fine weekend for the maroon and white of Gigginstown as Abacadabras won a thrilling Unibet Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown on Sunday, but O'Leary did not think the winner got the credit he deserved for the performance.
He said: "All anybody could talk about after the race was Saint Roi, but everything went wrong for us too. He just stopped in front and could have won by a few lengths.
"He needs a rocket of a pace to chase and that's what he's going to get in the Champion Hurdle. He's the best chance we've ever had of winning a Champion Hurdle by a mile and I wouldn't swap him for anything else in the race."
Two-time Cheltenham Festival winner Samcro could try three miles for the first time in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas as O'Leary is keen to run him and Battleoverdoyen in different races.
O'Leary said: "Samcro could go up in trip, but Battleoverdoyen won't. I would like to keep the two of them apart, so I would say Battleoverdoyen might go for the John Durkan at Punchestown next month and we might keep Samcro to run at Leopardstown over Christmas. I think he's worth a shot over three miles.
"That's where Delta Work will probably go too. I was perfectly satisfied with his run at Down Royal [fifth of nine in the Grade 1 Ladbrokes Champion Chase]. We know he always comes on for his first run. The more he runs, the better he is. He'll be fine."
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